The American people are angry. And it is not cyclical anger – after all, we are sitting at the top of the current business cycle. This anger is a secular trend. There is anger at the lack of jobs, there is anger over class warfare, there is anger at police profiling of young black men, anger at conservatives, anger at political correctness, anger at liberals, anger at the breakdown of our inner city infrastructures and the poisoning of water in Flint, Michigan, and elsewhere, anger at Hillary Rodham Clinton, anger at Donald Trump , anger at the mainstream media, anger at liberal and conservative media, and, most of all, anger at a promised way of life that seems to be slipping away never to return.
The anger tracks a culmination of several economic and demographic trends that have been gaining traction but are now becoming apparent to the majority of the population. The American people are finally aware that they will no longer have job security or employer-based health care. The traditional work week has given way to the gig economy. No matter how much educational debt one accumulates in an effort to escape this new normal, most people will still be subjected to this uncertainty over career, income and upward mobility. And to people who worked hard and played by what they thought were the rules, this is unacceptable. Someone is to blame, and someone has to pay for this.
Enter the political establishment. As Gov. Romney alluded to in his failed attempt to repudiate Donald Trump, the political elite has always employed tried and true methods of channeling popular discontent. It was either through engaging in a war against some foreign threat or fomenting anger against groups within America. Both parties have been guilty of this – whether it is fomenting anger against blacks or fomenting anger against whites, or Mexicans or workers or capitalists. The political parties have been able to control this anger and use it to their benefit.
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But they have never encountered a person like Donald Trump. Trump has issued a clarion call to discontented Americans, and they have responded en masse. His message has been blunt, crass and at times vulgar. And yet people like the way he is expressing their own anger. This has rankled the establishment because they see it as a major challenge to their own interests. Because Trump is not beholden to the status quo, he is unpredictable once in office. He may make decisions that go against entrenched interests. Nothing could be so clear as when Trump went before AIPAC and declared that he did not want or need their money. He would not even commit to a common position endorsed by all the other candidates – that he would advocate that the putative capital of Israel be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This deeply rankled the Jewish establishment and further cemented Trump's status as his own man.
The Republican establishment has desperately attempted to control and curtail the Trump movement. The latest threat – holding a brokered convention in which establishment leaders would determine the nominee, could very easily backfire. Even those who do not necessarily support Donald Trump are angered by the prospect of the party interfering with the will of the people. They see this as fundamentally anti-Democratic and not the way we should conduct ourselves in this country. Those that oppose Trump should do so within the Democratic means we have at our disposal. Trump has thus far run quite an unorthodox campaign and may have broken the unspoken rules of political rhetoric. But the fact is he has played well within the official rules of the political game. He may have exploited the rules in his favor, but he has not broken them. Let's not go breaking rules in an effort to stop him from gaining the nomination. That could lead down a dangerous road and set a terrible precedent for the future.
Already there is rumbling that there are establishment plans afoot to unleash protesters to attend Trump rallies and disrupt them. They want to create further confrontation and put the campaign in a position where it is seen as fomenting violence. This is what the media want the American public to see, but it is not generally the truth. And if the agitators are able to get enough incidents of violence, perhaps the authorities will declare the rallies a threat to security and shut them down entirely. These are the ideas that are actually being floated. Prevent a Trump presidency by denying him the right to speak to his audience. The proposed suppression of speech and free assembly is a far more dangerous threat to our democracy than that of an eventual Trump presidency.
Donald Trump has undoubtedly tapped into something, a spirit of anger buried deep inside the American electorate. Rather than try to deny it or suppress it by dismissing Trump as its cause (he is not), politicians need to wake up to the reality and deal with it. The Republican Party in particular risk starting a major rebellion if it tries to engineer a brokered convention in an effort to stop Trump. The Democrats should be wary of trying to shut Trump down by baiting his supporters into a street battle. Respect the will of the people, and let them decide who their leader should be.
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There is no question Hilary Clinton is the complete opposite of Donald Trump. If the American people decide in the end that they would rather have an establishment candidate, they have ample opportunity do so without interference with the political process. I suspect, however, that the world has changed since she made her calculation about what playing an inside game would earn her in terms of power and influence. With Trump, we don't know exactly what we are getting. But one thing is for sure; it won't be what we've gotten thus far.
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